The House of Mirth | Study Guide

Edith Wharton

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The House of Mirth Study Guide." Course Hero. 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 21 Sep. 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, October 27). The House of Mirth Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "The House of Mirth Study Guide." October 27, 2016. Accessed September 21, 2023.


Course Hero, "The House of Mirth Study Guide," October 27, 2016, accessed September 21, 2023,

The House of Mirth | Motifs



Reading represents society and an understanding of the individual within it. For instance readers learn more about the character Lawrence Selden as Lily peruses his bookshelves and he tells her he doesn't collect books for show; he merely enjoys having "good editions of the books [he is] fond of." Percy Gryce, in contrast, continues to collect books on American history, despite the fact that he has no taste, simply because he inherited a fine collection from his uncle.


Gambling represents risky behavior with both money and love. Lily's gambling losses lead to her compromised position with Gus Trenor and, through the gossip of other characters, to her loss of Percy Gryce as a suitor and the loss of support from her aunt. While her penchant for gambling is a flaw in Lily's character, the novel clearly shows that the expectations and demands of Lily's social world compound the consequences of her flaw.


Images of water, floods, streams, and seas, abound in the novel. People are submerged, they sink, or they float. These water images are as numerous as those that refer to money. Lily feels as if she is drowning, the "sea of humiliation" breaks over her, "wave crashing on wave." Selden experiences "the bitter waters of life," and Gerty feels herself drowning when she realizes that her cousin Selden loves Lily and not her. Water in literature and art is traditionally associated with female power, so it is fitting that water dominates this feminine society.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The House of Mirth? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!